Which Plants Can I Grow in Seattle?
When you think of Seattle, it’s easy for majestic vistas, fresh seafood, and the iconic Space Needle to jump to mind. However, you may not know how rife for growing opportunity the Emerald City can be for the aspiring gardener. Even with annual frost, the climate of Seattle is one of the more forgiving across the U.S. Milder weather also harbors a robust growing season for a wide variety of plants, from fruit trees to flowering perennials.
Which Plants Grow Well in Seattle?
Fruit trees do well in the more temperate and hospitable climate Seattle provides, and there are many beautiful flowers and plants that thrive just as vibrantly. Each love the warm and sunny summers of the area, many of which can be seen at one of the many local parks or arboretums. These spaces also provide real examples of how best to plant and nurture each! With this in mind, consider overwintering some plants that are maybe less resilient to the frost but can easily handle the warmer seasons. If you need some help with ideas, some great examples of flowering plants to grow in Seattle are:
Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera Deliciosa): With its notched leaves and photogenic nature, it’s also known as the Swiss Cheese plant. It can spread over a large area quickly and lend a jungle vibe to any setting. They thrive in temperatures that hover around and above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and can even do fine in shaded areas so long as temperatures are maintained! While indoors, it likes bright to medium indirect light for at least 6 hours a day. Otherwise, this is extremely easy to take care of. The Monstera does like humidity, so spritz occasionally!
Common Camas (Camassia quamash): Part of the lily family, this plant has bright green leaves that look similar to grass. However, this plant sprouts beautiful flowers that grow up to three feet tall, with blue or purple flowers that range from a light pastel to a deep stunning hue! This perennial blooms throughout April to June, prefers very wet areas with full sun, and will go dormant over the winter months. It is a favorite of local pollinators like bees!
Seattle is an excellent spot for both warm and cold season vegetables, but be sure to look at your local planting schedules from a Farmer’s Almanac or similar source to bulletproof your plans. These are some great options for your Seattle garden:
Cold Season Veggies:
- Swiss Chard
Warm Season Veggies:
Best Landscaping Plants in Seattle
As mentioned, fruit trees do great in areas like Seattle, making beautiful additions to your garden but are also helpful and reliable food sources for some of the native species of birds and pollinating insects. Remember to check if the landscaping plants you are considering work well in your specific region, but native plants are always a great option as they have already proven they can thrive in the area! For fruit trees, try:
- Apricot Trees
- Citrus Trees
- Cherry Trees
- Pear Trees
- Fig Trees
If flowers and shrubs are what you have in mind, be sure to mind that they need to be resilient enough to withstand light frosts and hot, sunny summer conditions. Here are a few great ideas to get you started:
Gardenia Veitchii (Gardenia Jasminoides ‘Veitchii’): Mid-spring blooms that are large, white, and aromatic even into fall draw many aspiring gardeners to this plant. As it’s also known, Cape Jasmine thrives best in full sun to partial shade and grows to heights up to four feet. Bright, indirect light is what it needs indoors, and while these plants can handle a light freeze, they may get damaged by sustained cold.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis): Make your garden an aromatic delight along with giving it a lush green vibe by planting Rosemary trees! As long as nights stay above 10 °F, these plants love being outdoors in full sun. Cut them back by one-third if the plan is to bring them indoors for overwintering. They can be a bit finicky with their preference for soil to dry out entirely before rewatering and prefer high humidity to thrive.
Tall Mountain Shooting Star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi): Common in many areas of Washington and Oregon, this small green plant blooms multiple flowers upon its stem that range in color from pinks to lavenders! The swooped back petals give it a very unique look that attracts bees and butterflies alike. It prefers quite wet areas and will be a great addition to any stream or small pond! It likes full sun to partial shade, and while it doesn't need to be next to water to survive, it does need to stay quite moist in the spring!
Which Plants are Native to Seattle?
Considering native plants for your indoor or outdoor space is a great way to help the local ecosystem while giving yourself some leeway as far as garden maintenance is concerned. By utilizing plants that have already proven to thrive in the local area, you can also help prevent soil erosion and sustain local wildlife. It’s especially important to consider plants that are endangered in your specific area as well as those that are vital food sources for local birds, butterflies, and bees! Be sure to check which plants fit best to your specific location, but a few for the Seattle area are:
Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aethiopicum): Moist soil, low light, and high humidity are the preferences of this fern with its delicate fronds. Despite its appearance, however, this plant is quite durable and resilient! It can even handle temperatures down to -10 °F and isn’t averse to colder months.
Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum): The red flowers isn't attractive to only people, hummingbirds and other pollinators love these clustered blooms! They also emit a unique, spicy scent while blooming, adding unique character to your garden. The berries that appear after the blooms are dark blue and birds love them, making this a great pick for anyone trying to please the local fauna! The berries are also edible to people, and while tart are often used in jellies and baked goods. Keep this plant in full sun to partial shade, and make sure to water it while it gets established.
Other Plants that Grow Best in Seattle
Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides): The star-like flowers that are white and smell fantastic and give this plant its name bloom in late spring. An elegant, evergreen vine that can grow up to 6 feet in a season and loves to trellis composes the rest of this plant. By planting it near a porch rail, lattice, or other ladder-like structure, you’ll really see its wonderful growth! It can handle winters in Seattle just fine, and it also prefers bright, direct sunlight so long as the heat doesn’t get too intense, which makes it a great outdoor addition to gardens in the area!
Salal (Gaultheria shallon): This plant truly looks like something you would see in a fantasy movie. The urn-shaped flowers that it blooms look nothing short of otherworldly, coming in pinks and whites and daintily covering the entire shrub during its blooming season. These flowers make way for the black fruits that birds and local wildlife love! Plant this shrub in sun to partial shade to ensure that it thrives!
If you’re looking for more great ideas, go visit the Washington Park Arboretum. Not only will you see a robust variety of plant life that thrives in the Seattle Climate, but some beautiful displays of landscaping and gardening as well. Go in April for the cherry blossom bloom and some exceptional photo opportunities!
Seattle Gardening Tips
As previously mentioned, a timely and healthy application of mulch can help prolong your growing season. Awareness of your warm and cold seasons is easily navigated by consulting a farmer’s almanac to keep track of the weather and avoid any unnecessary frost or heat exposure. Furthermore, keep your eye on your rain gauge! Seattle is notorious for ample precipitation, and overwatering plants can be just as harmful as not watering them enough! Raised beds and cold frames make growing cool-loving crops more approachable in the winter months.
When Should I Plant My Garden in Seattle?
Seattle falls within one of the most common climate zones in the United States, however, that means more than ever it is essential to consider your individual climate. Though precipitation can be abundant in Seattle, a slight deviation to the north or south can result in wide variances of overall rainfall. Usually, the last freeze date for Seattle is March 15th, and the first freeze date is November 15th. Check your specific area for more accurate dates, as this will vary from region to region. Remember that the general rule is to start vegetables indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date!
Winter gardens are a great option in Seattle for this reason. Even more than other areas across the U.S. that don’t get to take advantage of them! You can plant cool-loving crops like broccoli and spinach in October while your soil is still warm.
Planting in USDA Zone 8b
Zone 8 has two subzones, Zone 8a and Zone 8b. These Zones are differentiated by their minimum average winter temperature of 10 °F to 20 °F. Respectively, Zone 8a is 10 °FF to 15 °F, while Zone 8b is 15 °F to 20 °F. This Zone is the most common warm Zone in the U.S.! Using tricks like mulch can help you extend your long growing season even a bit further, but you will have to consider both the hot summer months and the frost season.